Madam Chair, I come to you from the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.
I want to start with a statement I made on social media.
The magnitude of this horrific tragedy initially left me numb. So many children were lost and so many families are grieving. So many emotions of heartbreak are breaking out again. Even if it were only one child, for that family it would be an infinite lifetime of sorrow.
As I was at a memorial of shoes with Angus Sidney, and on a walk yesterday, I and many others imagined what would happen if this were our own children. How could any parent bear such an incalculable pain?
At yesterday's event, after chief after chief expressed their deep sorrow, it was uplifting to hear them, led by Doris Bill, talk about a path forward and reconciliation. Nothing can undo these devastating events, but we in the Government of Canada, under whose authority residential schools were created and maintained, need to do everything in our power to bring these children, and those yet to be found, home to their families.
As well, ongoing support for indigenous-created healing is paramount. The highest priority must be given to continuing to work intensively with families of victims, with indigenous women's groups such as those in Yukon leading the country, and with other indigenous leaders and organizations across Canada to bring all the TRC calls to action to fruition. We can all continually work with those whose hearts are not yet in the same place as the hearts of the many who yesterday attended the Yukon gathering founded in love.
I want to now go over what, in this brief time of a couple of days, at least some of my constituents are asking for or demanding. Almost everyone who contacted me wanted to make sure that all the sites of residential schools in Canada would be searched for all potential graves. They understand that this needs to be indigenous-led. It needs to be as the families want and it needs to be culturally appropriate. They want all the calls to action of the TRC, the parts the federal government is responsible for, to be fully implemented, especially numbers 74 to 76 related to this event.
Investigations must occur and there must be accountability. They want Canadians to educate themselves and acknowledge these dark times in our history. One person said it is not a dark chapter of history, but a foundation of the unjust way that Canada was peopled. They want St. Anne's Indian Residential School survivors and those damaged by insufficient child welfare to be fully funded.
They have said that there need to be big closure ceremonies, clean water and other good conditions, as well as a national day of mourning. One person provided me a list of some terrible, specific, horrible crimes on specific children. The individuals have not been held to account, and it makes healing under those conditions difficult, if possible at all.
In our small city of Whitehorse, we had a spontaneous memorial set up on the steps of the Catholic church where over 400 pairs of children's shoes just appeared. At the invitation of Angus Sidney, I slept on those steps all night with him to honour those young lives that ended all too soon. The next day, there was a walk of thousands of Yukoners taking these shoes to display around a sacred fire that continues to burn right now. The procession was silent except for the heartbeat of the drums. At the fire, a number of chiefs spoke of tragedy and of sadness, but also of true leaders, of a path forward and of reconciliation.
Because this deplorable part of our history was not taught for the longest time in our schools, only after this tragic episode are many Canadians finding out about these devastating deaths. I commend all those across the country who have organized these events. I commend all indigenous leaders, and the tens of thousands of Canadians who turned up at the sad ceremonies across the country, for opening their hearts to the difficult steps we all must take to try to achieve reconciliation that will bring peace to all and a path forward together.